The main purpose of your website is for it to be of use to your visitors, and Google agrees, which is exactly why it hates thin content. Yet a huge number of website owners were recently hit by manual penalties from Google – it seems the search engine has begun cracking the whip again.

To prevent your site being penalised, it’s vital to understand exactly what thin content is, and how it can be fixed.

What is thin content, and why is it a problem?

Thin content is content Google deems to be of little or no value. Many assume this is due to a low word count, but this is not always the case. The content may be auto-generated, copied from somewhere else or simply filled with spelling and grammatical errors. If Google doesn’t think visitors will find this page helpful or useful, the content is classed as ‘thin’, and you could end up being hit by Google’s Panda algorithm.

Thin content is a problem for a number of reasons; not only will your search visibility be impacted by Panda and any manual penalties, your users will suffer too. Pages which have little or no use will slow down the user journey and make it unnecessarily difficult for visitors to find what they are looking for. This is exactly why Google punishes sites with poor content on them. Why would it want to send browers to an unhelpful page or site, when it can send them to a much better one?

How do we identify thin content?

Thin content can typically be identified by one or more of the following characteristics:

  • A low word count
  • Copied internally a number of times on the same site
  • Taken from other external resources
  • Does not provide unique value or depth on the subject
  • Has no real purpose (content for content’s sake)
  • Poorly written with spelling or grammar issues

Our Apollo Insights software helps us find these problematic pages, as we can view the word count of each page. Moreover, it also audits each site automatically, allowing campaign delivery managers (CDMs) to see where any problems may lie.

Technical audit algorithm in Apollo

How can you fix it?

So, you’ve found some thin content on your site. The next thing you should do is decide whether to remove, rewrite, expand on or replace the content in question. If you’re unsure which option would be best, check out our blog ‘Should you delete dead web pages?’.

The strategy you take to improve the thin content will partly depend on the initial identification issue. For example if the content is duplicated across several pages of your site, you may decide to create a content hub, so that all the relevant information is in one place.

We did precisely that for waste management solutions firm, Betts Envirometal. Lee Wilson, Head of SEO, explains: “After identifying an opportunity within Apollo Insights for untapped sector-specific visibility, we started to implement a new sector specific waste management content hub in the customer site,” he states.

“As the audience was B2B, an important goal was to create a resource which would enable lots of varied industries to see the immediate value of the customer service and access information that would empower them to contact the Betts team.”

Since implementation, the content hub now drives the most landing page visits to the site (excluding the home page), and the increase in traffic really does speak for itself:

Website performance stats

You can also fix thin content by rewriting it and bulking it up. Many ecommerce sites, for example, tend to have very little text on their product pages, as a lot of the things they sell are quite similar. Instead of writing the same product description over and over again, we ensure that all the content is unique. Not only does increasing the amount of unique content on page make the site look good in Google’s eyes, it’s also helpful to your customers. They are now able to see a much more detailed explanation of the product, so they know exactly what they are buying without having to contact the company or conduct their own external research. This will make them much more likely to make a purchase then and there, rather than leaving to check out your competitors’ websites.

Another potential fix is to conduct technical site updates to resolve duplicate URL creation. You can also ask your users for feedback on your content via surveys. This way, you know you’re creating content your users actually want to read.

How to ensure the content you produce is never thin

Of course, prevention is always better than cure.

“Ideally, prior to creating content, you will be thinking of the intended audience, their requirements, and the unique value that can be derived from your content,” Lee says.

Essentially, you need to write high quality content that your audience will find useful. This may sound easy, and you may think you’re doing this already, but this isn’t always the case. Here are some measures you can take to ensure you don’t end up with thin content:

  • Hire professional writers to create your content
  • Don’t copy content – either from your own site or a competitor’s
  • Set a minimum word count and stick to it
  • Don’t write content for content’s sake
  • Don’t spam keywords or phrases; if you want to include them, do so as naturally as possible
  • Ensure that all content is edited and fact-checked by a writer (someone other than the author)

After you’ve written or expanded any content, don’t forget to measure whether it has had the desired effect on your site or not.

Still need more help?

If your site is suffering at the fuzzy hand of a Panda penalty, we can help! Get in touch with our SEO and content marketing experts today, by calling 0845 123 2753 or filling out our contact form.